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Peak(s):  The Castle - 9691
Date Posted:  06/27/2018
Modified:  07/09/2018
Date Climbed:   06/23/2018
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   Greenhouseguy, Brian Thomas
 Storming The Castle   

The Castle

  • Mileage: ~3
  • Elevation gain: ~1,655'
  • Grade: 5.4 and 5.7+, 2-5 pitches
  • Route: Southeast Gully
  • Trailhead: Wellington Lake
  • Fees: $10/per person, $5/car
  • Partner: Brian T and Greenhouseguy (Brian C and the other half of the photos)

When BrianT asked if I wanted to climb The Castle, I said yes without even knowing anything about it. It's called "The Castle", why wouldn't I love it?! It was in the LCW, so yes please. Oh look, it's a 5.4, that sounds fun. Did I forget about LCW approaches and the fact that it was low elevation and likely bushy, yep. So I pulled a BrianT and didn't do any research on the peak or anything, since he's been up there 3 times before. He should know the route, right?

Since there was a per vehicle charge at Wellington Lake, we would carpool into the private property. I was coming from Aspen and the Brian's from Denver, so we met along the road at the Rolling Creek Trailhead. Since it was out of cell service, I couldn't tell them exactly where I would be parking (since I didn't know about this trailhead beforehand). So I decided to be a little cheeky and hold up a "Will belay for food" sign, ala Fred Beckey.

My best Fred Beckey impression

We drove onto the property, filled out our wavers, payed our money and headed to the parking area for the approach. Divided up gear and started hiking up the trail. Soon we got to the waterfall. While underwhelming, it was also a little cool that it formed pockets in the rock.

The Castle from across the lake
The Castle from the trail
Dailey's spurless Columbine (ID is all BrianC)
Lower easy trail
Waterfall potholes
Our route in the center, with the trees

After that it was a steep scree fest up to the base of the first pitch. We went a bit high on the approach, and the bushwhack to the first pitch was pretty bad. We chose a better descent route.

Classic LCW bushwhack

BrianT and I geared up for the climb, as BrianT would lead, I would second and then BrianC would follow last, since it was his first time climbing.

The first pitch
Flaking the rope

BrianT put in a couple pieces along the flake and then made his way up to the belay station. Soon I was tying in on a bite, since I wanted to make sure BrianC was tied in properly at the end of the rope, before I left the ground.

BrianT putting in a cam
My job, remove the cams

Removing the 2 pieces of pro was easy, but then the moves to get over the mini roof were a bit challenging. I haven't climbed in a year, and not seriously for 5 (*GASP*). So I was a bit rusty. BrianC faithfully recorded my process below, even if it wasn't completely elegant.

Me making the mini roof move

I got on top of the choke stone and untied so that BrianC could come up. He didn't have rock shoes, so his climb was much much harder.

BrianT belaying BrianC up
BrianC making his way over the choke stone
View of the harder pitches

Above the first pitch, BrianT said there would be scrambling, so I foolishly switched back into my hiking boots. About 10 feet later was a large boulder to clamber up, and shorty me couldn't quite reach. So back on went the sticky rock shoes, so I could at least smear the boulder to reach the holds. I kept the rock shoes on until after the final rap. Glad these are my oldest rock shoes! 18 yrs old... dang.

BrianT said there were many options to get up to the rock garden, but he wasn't sure of the exact route. Or at least the easiest route. So we had some route finding adventures, and likely some more class 5 scrambling as we made our way up. Some was a bit intimidating for shorties like me. Other spots got BrianC's heart rate up a bit.

Scrambling in my hiking boots, foolishly
BrianT on top of a steep scramble section
My turn
An easier section
BrianT stemming his way up
Don't look down
Boulder scrambling

Eventually we made it to the base of the summit pitch and had a snack before the real fun.

Summit boulder
Snack time

Brian led the more sporting optional 5.7+ route on the SSE flank of the summit boulder, while BrianC would do the traditional tree route. I would follow BrianT up the more fun way. Brian placed 4 cams, including my 2 that I brought. So having doubles could be useful. Some fun stemming moves and laybacks. I was mainly trying to avoid foot jams with my cranky left ankle, so I found my own unique way up the crack system.

BrianT placing the second cam
BrianT nearing the top
On Belay
The route up close
Me stemming
Happy to be on top!

There was quite the view from airy summit! I snapped a bunch of photos while the Brian's reset the rope. We added another pice of webbing around a boulder protrusion along the summit boulder, to prevent a pendulum swing, and to give BrianC a bit more confidence on the final tricky 5.4 move to the summit.

BrianC in the tree route
BrianT belaying BrianC up with Wellington Lake below
Summit views!
South summit with Wellington Lake
Northern ramparts

We were so happy to have made it, I took a rare summit selfie.

Happy trio

After signing the register, it was rap time. I didn't want to go last on the first pitch, so I talked my way through the set up, to make sure we all would remember the process. Don't want to mess up on the rap! BrianC had rapped trees, just not rocks, so he went second, so BrianT could check his setup.

BrianC on rap
BrianT on rap

After we all got back down to the hanging garden to retrieve our gear, we decided to rap all the scrambling pitches for speed and for safety. My ankle was tired, and there was more than plenty of exposed down climbing to do that would test ones mental fortitude, especially for shorties.

Some tall people can step across, I have to leap

We got into a rhythm, where BrianT would find the rap station, I'd flake the rope and find center and hand it over to BrianT, and then I'd help manage the rope on his way down. He'd rap first to then find the next spot, while BrianC and then I would rap down. BrianC would pull the rope, I'd coil it and BrianC would carry it to the next spot. Rinse and repeat. We all had our jobs to make the process faster.

Rope management with a view
BrianC on rap #2
Me on rap #2
Some raps were tricky

Once we got down to the first pitch, we put out hiking boots and shoes back on and found a much better descent back to the trail. Amazingly I did not fall down on the scree, as I had imagined/dreaded on the way up. The remainder of the lower trail went quickly, as we had celebratory drinks awaiting in my fridge at my truck.

Hope this is just the first of many class 5 peaks this summer! I need to regain my skills!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46

Comments or Questions
j babu
6/27/2018 4:16pm
Thanks for the report. I nearly took a party up that route this spring, but based on mountainproject beta, it sounds like a long approach and a long scramble sandwiched between a bit of roped climbing. Worth it? Would you do it again? There aren't a lot of easy multi-pitch routes to thrill my novice friends and their siblings, so it's hovering on the edge of my short list...
(Glad you're back in action!)

6/27/2018 4:23pm
B Thom the accounting electrician is leading tech climbs? I need to crawl out from the rock I've been hiding under!

Stay or go?
6/27/2018 5:12pm
j babu - Tricky. The roped sections were very short. If your friends are (more) hikers/scramblers then yes, this is a fun one. If they've climbed before, but don't like hiking (or hate scree and bushes) - not so much. If you want to 'make a weekend of it' and camp at the lake, then it could just be part of the experience. Having done multi-pitch in Eldo, this doesn't exactly rate highly. But I also come from a more mountaineering background, so sometimes an aesthetic peak (like this one is) is just part of the journey.

Rainier_Wolfcastle - The B Thom comes out of his hole to view his shadow on a rope a couple times a year. This was one of them. He might have let me lead the last pitch, but I'm too rusty for that level just yet.

Great Report!
6/27/2018 7:48pm
This was definitely a step up from what I'm accustomed to, but guess it was a fairly gentle introduction to technical climbing. Thanks for your help!

Very cool place!
6/27/2018 9:13pm
I'm impressed more and more with the LCW. What a fun outing! Great shots you guys! Thanks for sharing!

6/28/2018 9:05am
Nice climb on the Castle! Looks enjoyable.

Side note - B Thom looks absolutely nothing like the B Thom I first met several years ago, to the point it's difficult to recognize him. This version is all trim and athletic looking.

LCW for the win
7/1/2018 9:44am
Brian - The only more gentle transition would be hitting an indoor gym, but yeah this climb is a decent into to the sport.

Doug - Does that mean you want to hit up the LCW this summer?

Monster - A fun climb if you like bushes, and bushes that bite back.

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